Story for the Day: Tuatha and Paudrig
Paudrig and Tuatha have a longstanding rivalry with one another, the former being a five-year-old with a glorious imagination, and the later being a disenchanted freemartin whose proclivity in life is trod the western roads conveying her master's shipments and eat as much of the living hedges lining the nearby farms as Ronneigh will allow. Being a child who triumphs in conquering beasts of unfathomable proportions, Paudrig tries to conquer Tuatha any chance he can. His first attack on her leads to years of adversarial and hilarious encounters:
This was not to be entirely believed, for the
freemartin, slow and methodical, indifferent and dispassionate, could not have
moved so quickly as to be imperceptible. He had been looking at her when he was
making his speech, and she barely moved at all since Ronneigh had approached.
He glanced again at his adversary, inspecting every feature again and again to
see where her cleverness lay. Her eyes, he discovered, though her face was
turned away, were constantly observing him, following his every gesticulation
and step, and her ears, though flicking and turning toward the markets, must be
listening for his advancement. It was a playing at being unconcerned when she
was well aware of the dangers in her purlieu her ears leaned toward bees
buzzing in the nearby hedgerow, her tail
swatted a cloud of passing gnats, but her eye never moved, her head nodding and
shaking in all directions whilst her eye was fixed on the child. Here was the
secret of her elusive movements, and Paudrig would use her own machinations
against her to grab her horns and take them for himself. He assumed an
indifferent air, humming merrily to himself, swaying his arms and sauntering,
surveying the nearby hills with affected carelessness. A few steps brought him
closer to his nemesis and when he was an arms-length from her side, with a
strident a roar as his tony voice could muster, he lunged forward and grabbed
her, taking hold of her horns by the base. “Ha!” he cried, giving a great tug,
“tha’s ye captured. Yu’ll have tae surrender yur horns if ye want tae go free,”
but no sooner had he said it than Tuatha, having just finished her goldwort, lowed
and jerked her head sideways, taking Paudrig off his feet. She tossed her head
about, trying to dislodge him, but Paudrig would hold on, weighing himself down
and going limp to keep her in place.
Coming toward Tearlaidh and Paudrig, with all the good humour that his sanguine nature could promise, was Ronneigh, waving to the commander with one hand and holding Tuatha’s reins with the other. Only beginning his deliveries from the morning’s yield, Ronneigh had observed the commander in his way out of town and forced Tuatha to leave a gleaning of hoarycress, that he might pay his respects to his old friend before he was gone again to his place in the mountains. That a child was with him, and that the child was dressed in so amusing a manner with his ragged pelt and old pot, was hardly surprising, for he was aware of his friend’s fondness for children and supposed that the child was another of the many about the square who were just as eager to attach themselves Tearlaidh and follow him wherever the commander should go. He did not recognize the child from the orphanage, nor had he seen the child fluttering town, but there was scarcely time to form any postulations before Tearlaidh stepped toward the jaunty and said, with an outstretched hand, “Still followin’ yur ol’ bheanrin around, aye, Ronneigh?”
“Aye,” said Ronneigh, standing from his seat, grabbing Tearlaidh’s hand and giving it a hearty shake. “She’s draggin’ meh round the road, but Ah let her since she’s mah breid an’ butter.” He sat down and patted Tuatha’s rump. “Aye, Tuatha? Ye let me aff at nights, doant ye?”
The freemartin, displeased that she had been made to relinquish her excellent find, only flicked her tail at Ronneigh and turned aside. She soon recovered from her loss, however, when she discovered a patch of creeping goldwort beside her, commanding the breadth of a rock, which was in desperate want of being freed from its captivity though it did not know it. The men talked, and she bore a mild interest in the conversation as he gnashed away at the goldwort, lowing in delight at the subtle flavour, so engrossed in her own pleasures that she did not notice Paudrig waving his spear at her nose.
To anyone else, Tuatha was an old Westren longhorn, with a brown speckled hide, long muzzle, indifferent features, with a humour unaffected and uninterested in anything beyond the trails of goldwort undulating languidly from her lips as she ate, but to a child with an imagination as animated and vibrant as Paudrig’s, she was an immense and terrifying beast, who breathed fire and charged her foes, whose thunderous steps destroyed roads and whose bellowing moos deafened anyone in her path; a monstrosity to be vanquished lest she be allowed to rage rampant and eat all the children in town, and after a few moments spent in silent calculation, Paudrig determined that he would be the saviour of TussNaTuillin, to rid the village and all the parish of such an unconscionable terror, to risk his wellbeing and brave the assault to reign triumphant over a beast that had tormented the villagers for far too long. He hid behind the commander’s legs to gain the element of surprise, and when, upon peering around the commander’s knees, he observed his pray to be turned away, he leapt out from his place and lunged toward her, stabbing his spear at her nose. “Ah’ve got ye, beastie!” he cried, waving his spear about.
A momentary look and a snuff was all the interest that Tuatha would give the child, and she turned away, eating her goldwort with affected unconcern.
“Try tae escape, and tha’s ye gutted.”
“Here, lad,” said Ronneigh, trying not to laugh, “sure, she’s a ferocious beast, a real terror flickin’ her ears and wavin’ her tail and daein’ her business where she’s no’ supposed tae an’ o’, but if ye point tha’ spear tae close, she’ll wallop ye with her horns.”
“If Ah fight her, Ah’ll have her horns for mah clan wall,” said Paudrig stoutly.
Ronneigh’s lips pursed in a smile, and he glanced at Tearlaidh, who was remarking the child with a something like doting affection, the glint of paternal pride gleaming in his good eye.
“Yur clan wall, aye?” said Ronneigh, winking at the commander. “Well, Ah’d let ye have a battle with her, but Ah need her to drive the jaunty, so Ahm afraid Ah cannae let ye hunt her.”
“But Ah need tae practice mah skulkin’ and surprisin’.”
“An’ good on ye there, lad, but she’s mah business, an’ if ye spear her through, tha’s mah business gone. Ah doant mean tae keep ye from huntin’, but Ah cannae lose mah livin’.”
Paudrig was disappointed and pouted, but then, in a more mindful hue, he rested his cheek against the shaft of his spear and hummed as he studied his prey. “Can Ah cut her horns from her?”
“If ye can taek ‘em aff her,” Ronneigh chuckled and slapped his knees. “Yur a brave lad tae try. She doant even let the wee-uns in toun hang aff her. If ye can grab her with yer hauns and stay on, lad, ye might have a chance at taeken ‘em horns for yursel’.”
Here the ferocity in Paudrig’s countenance instantly revived, and with a wide stance and fearless gesture, he threw down his spear and declared, “Here ye, beastie! Yur gonnae give me yur horns, or tha’s ye—“
There was a loud clang, and Paudrig suddenly found himself at Tearlaidh’s feet, his legs sprawled out, his arms flat, the back of his head resting on the ground.
“Ho, tha’s a welt of a cow, lad,” Ronneigh cried, in high revel.
Paudrig righted himself and looked confusedly about. “What was tha’?” said he, touching his hand to the pot on his head.
“Cow flummoxed ye, lad,” Tearlaidh humphed, his eye crinkling with smile lines.
“Flummoxed meh?” An incredulous glare toward Tuatha, who was eating the last of her goldwort and looking unassuming, and Paudrig was quite at a loss. “But how--?”
“She surprised ye, lad,” said Ronneigh. “Rapped ye right on the heid with her muzzle when ye werenae lookin’.”
|Twisk decided to decorate Paudrig's pot helm.|